If you are a member of the generational group we should all collectively refuse to refer to as "millennials," you need all pertinent information distilled into acronyms, portmanteaus, and other snackable bites of shareability. No problem: Allow us to introduce the S.P.L.I.T.™ check system, a serviceable guide to splitting every check, ensuring your next power lunch doesn't end in fisticuffs. (Not available in stores.)
S - Six cards is the absolute freakin’ limit if you want individual specialized checks -- and even that is pushing it. If you are splitting things evenly, there’s a little wiggle room (depending on the restaurant), but this is basically the breaking point. If you go over, you better be dropping at least 25% on the gratuity line.
P - Plan ahead, and order accordingly -- for everyone’s sake. Make sure the conversation isn’t kept to a scramble at the end. Have a game plan. If you want individual checks, tell the server first. Before you order four Bloomin’ Onions, make sure your mates know you are going communal, and are cool with it.
L - Logic. Don’t forget it. If you know your friend Red just got laid off from the plant and is hard up on cash, don’t be pissed if he wants his own check when you go HAM on various ham plates (and also, this makes sure the rest of the table is not bound by one person’s budget). And no two situations are the same: If you are in a tiny but packed mom-and-pop with one server, try to put it all on one card. These situations are subjective, and you need to treat them as such. Common sense is the best way to assuage any problems. In life, and in checks. This is the golden rule of check-splitting.
I - iPhones, and by proxy apps like Venmo, have made it ridiculously easy for money to change hands -- so use ‘em. In previous decades, the issue with one person putting the whole check on their card might have been more severe. Imagine having to wait till the first of the month for the town savings and loan to open so your friends can withdraw a roll of silver dollars (assuming that’s how things used to work). Now you can pay your buddy back at the literal speed of light.
T - Teetotalers must be heard and accommodated; this is an extension of the logic part, but it deserves its own slot as it is one of the most common gripes. Alcohol is a delicious, slippery lubricant that helps us talk to strangers, but it also ruins friendships. It’s expensive. And if you aren’t drinking, you probably don’t want to pay for everyone else's dranks. It's not really fair.
Ultimately, even the air-tight rubric of an expertly crafted acronym can't be universal. The rules of the restaurant world are not black and white: They’re more like a mashed potato cream color, with specks of brown, crispy skin tossed in to make things more exciting... even if they get stuck in your teeth sometimes. But that's why we have toothpicks!
The only true, mature way to tackle the check -- and actually, most adult problems involving other humans and money -- is a healthy spirit of compromise: the utilitarian toothpick of adult problems. This willingness to be malleable is far more mature than any half-baked stance you have on splitting. So use these rules as a general guideline, a primer. They are not doctrine. Your focus should rest on being open, being considerate, and thinking outside of yourself... even if it’s just for one meal.
In other words: Grow up, dummy!